G.K. Chesterton once said, “The difficulty explaining why I am Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” There is a pervasive myth in Christendom that says “it doesn’t matter what your denomination is, all that matters is your belief in Jesus.” But is this really the standard on how to address the underlying issue of whether there is one Church? Hardly not.
What branch or denomination has captivated the minds of millions with its scope of impact in Western civilization or has been the vanguard for missionary work in the last millennia?
Of course, the Catholic Church has!
The Catholic Church is a unique, ancient, and powerful institution because of Her ability to influence the world. I know of no other institution that has an immense political force to impact the political arena.
When we speak of the Church’s influence on matters of politics, there are several key figures that come to mind. One could think of Pope St. John Paul II and his groundbreaking work to defeat communism in the West during the later part of the 20th century.
People often forget that as much as communism was a political ideology, it was also a religion. A key tenet of communism as it was implemented involved religious suppression and even removal. For instance, Joseph Stalin destroyed religious institutions. When Russia was overtaken by its revolution after 1917, state atheism eventually followed, so Joseph Stalin ordered the demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Indeed, scenes like this ravished across Europe. So when Pope John Paul II visited his home country of Poland on June 2nd, 1979, his staunch opposition to the ideology was displayed. To the crowds, he said, “Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. ”
Even during his homily, the massive crowd chanted: “We want God!” A powerful testament against the abomination of state atheism and the errors of communism.
Also, during his tenure, Pope John Paul II would write many encyclicals that refuted the regime including Centesimus annus (Latin for “the hundredth year”).
Another pivotal player in world history is 1400yrs before that: Pope St. Leo the Great. Specifically, one thing that has defined his papacy besides his orthodox advocacy of Christology was his deterrence of Attila the Hun in 452.
St. Leo’s papacy was from 440 to 461 during the Roman Empire. By 452, the Empire had damaging and brutal relations with the various barbaric tribes in Europe. I mean, when your empire is enormously vast, how can you protect every corner?
Yet, the barbaric tribes were brutal in their conquest.
Attila and his Huns were no different. They entered Italy with carnage and were destined for Rome. Emperor Valentinian III sent the pope to negotiate. Then there where the two leaders stood face to face. No one knows the specifics of the conversation between St. Leo and Attila, but what we do know is that the Huns retreated. As a result, Leo helped preserve Rome from invaders.
Two great leaders at two different times show the powerhouse nature of the Catholic Church. Perhaps Western Civilization would be drastically different without them!
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